It’s not unfair to assume that for most people working in veterinary science and wildlife conservation, the primary motive is an innate love for animals. For Dr. Bhaskar Choudhary the story started much the same way. He grew up in a village where contact with wildlife was a daily occurrence, this familiarity led him to pursue a course in Veterinary Sciences and Animal Health from the Assam Agricultural University. He later took a job with the Wildlife Trust of India and in 2000 was posted to the International Fund For Animal Welfare – Wildlife Rescue Center, on the edge of Kaziranga National Park.
In 2002, after heavy flooding in the region, Dr. Choudhary and his team discovered Mainao, a rhino calf who was stuck in the branches of a tree and at a few weeks old, had found herself an orphan. After another flood in 2004 they found two more claves, Ganga and Jamuna and all three were gently nursed back to health, transported to Manas National Park and became the firt hand-reared rhinos to ever be rehabilitated in India.
This was their first brush with rearing orphaned animals, but definitely not the last. In 2009 two Clouded Leopard cubs were dropped on the centre’s doorstep not mistreated but alone and scared. Clouded leopards are highly sought after by poachers and the species has already made the IUCN’s Red List of vulnerable species. The species is highly elusive and not much was known about their lifestyle so when Dr. Choudhary and his team took on the project they had very little information to guide them.
They decided to formulate their own protocol - modelled on bear rehabilitation - and began bottle-feeding them and taking them on walks and generally doing the best they could. When the cubs were old enough they began weaning them off human dependency and let them hunt for themselves. After a year, they were fitted with radio collars and released into the wild, another first for Indian conservation.
There is so much that can be improved for Indian wildlife, whether regarding facilities, care, or simply awareness, most of the country is happy to turn a blind eye as ancient and indigenous species slip through our fingers. Dr. Choudhary and the IFAW-WRC team may be old hands when it comes to reintegration of orphan animals but their other work is far from over, they continue to save lives, teach and generally watch over their domain. For Choudhary, his work is his greatest pride, as he told The Better India ‘Nothing can beat that incredible rush of joy and pride you feel when you see an animal you have rescued coming into their own.’ This speaks volumes about his personal as well as professional dedication and we can only hope that Indian conservation is lucky enough to get more people like him.
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